Belfast Telegraph

The once power-hungry now starved of romantic reality

She's one of the most powerful women in the world. She looks a million dollars and is worth several hundred million more. But there's one thing Madonna's millions can't buy her: love.

"Every girl," she told Graham Norton last week, "wants to be swept off her feet by a knight in shining armour." We "like to think", she said, "that Mr Right" is going to "take us into the sunset and live happily ever after".

The top-selling female artist of all time was speaking at the premiere of her film, W.E. It's about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. It's about, in other words, a social-climbing American divorcee who tried to break into English society and did rather well.

But that, apparently, wasn't what made Madonna want to make the film. "I know what it feels like to be loved a lot," she said, "but no one's ever given up their kingdom for me."

You might think a woman married twice and divorced twice might have worked out by now that even love stories that involve giving up kingdoms have their moments of disappointment.

Some people might be a little bit disappointed that a woman who always said that writhing around without many clothes on was about "female empowerment" still dreams of being rescued by a man.

They might think a woman who has sold over 300 million records might look at her life and think it looked pretty good.

They might also think that someone with such a successful career who still hoped to be rescued by a man when she was not just over 40, but over 50, was being rather optimistic.

And they might also want to point out that, while romantic love has been a theme of art for a long time, and pretty much the only theme of pop, it has only rarely been the basis of marriage.

That, throughout history, marriage has been largely a practical arrangement which meant two people could pool their (usually very limited) economic resources and use these to feed the children - the inevitable by-product of sex.

They might want to add the pursuit of romantic love is, mostly, a hobby for those with time and money and there are certain things, like, being swept off your feet, that can't always be found by looking; that in fact, suggest an element of surprise.

But they might also note that, while heels have got higher and skirts shorter and necklines lower and while more and more women are wearing 'vintage' clothes and boasting about the scarves they've knitted and the cupcakes they've baked, something seems to have happened to female desire.

That women who said, for a while, that what they wanted was a partnership of equals, now talk about their power as if it was something they want to give up - for a man.

It has taken women centuries to get a little bit of power. It seems a shame to want to give it up so soon. It seems a shame, too, to hear one of the few women in our culture who's got an awful lot of it fantasise about having less.

Madonna, by the way, has got a boyfriend. He's a dancer. He's 24.

Madonna is, whatever her fantasies, behaving as powerful people have always behaved. She has entered into a transaction where youth is balanced by power.

She's behaving, strangely reassuringly, like a man.

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